What to include or exclude in a photo

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 140, 1/100

Theater

A great place to practice your craft is in the theater. For this production of Steel Magnolias at Roswell High School I sat on the back row and for a good reason.

On the back row you are able to see the feet of the actors whereas on the front row you often find the angle has you missing their feet. Another great reason is you are able to shoot above the heads of the audience and be somewhat out the the view of the audience.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

You can use your long glass for more than a football game. Here I am shooting on a monopod and sitting on the back row. I am shooting zoomed in with a 600mm lens at ƒ/5.6.  You can see from the first photo to this one I am able to get pretty tight on the actors on the stage.

So do you shoot wide or tight? The answer is simple—BOTH.

Lighting

The good news is the stage crew and lighting crew have taken care of just about everything for you. Here I just set the white balance to tungsten and found the correct exposure and just shot away. The lighting changes just once in the production to a darker scene, which made the color temperature a little warmer.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

I prefer shooting with a cinematic approach. This is where you are thinking of filling the frame that the viewer will experience the photos, which is assuming more of the size screen in a movie theater. The size is more about proportions of 16×9 or 3×2.  You are not thinking of cropping to a square or vertical.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 1800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

I choose to fill the frame of my Nikon D4. This means I am watching the frame edges to see what to include or exclude. Here in this photo I am letting the actors on either side determine the width and I am watching the curtains and the feet to be sure they have a little room. Too much higher and you see the top of the set.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Now I am also thinking about what the play is all about. They are in a hair salon and when I think of this place I think of the gossip that goes on. So in this photo while I could have cropped in to just show the two on the right a lot tighter. I am letting the actress sitting and the photo up on the wall both show how this is a place for eavesdropping.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 140, 1/100

Sometimes I am including more around the edges to help establish the scene, which is inside a High School theater. I am intentionally showing the audience as they watch the production.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Now in this last photo you can see that the bottom of the photo is just including the bottom of the chair and the top is including the photos on the wall. Those photos are then proportioned left to right to again keep the full frame filled. Now if this were for a print piece I may crop a little on the left and right, but this is a great example where you make the very best you can of the composition. I tried to go tighter, but thought the bottom of the chair helped to anchor this photo much better.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 4000, ƒ/4.8, 1/500

I went back the second night to get some photos with the second cast of the show. I decided to shoot some of these photos with my Fuji X-E2 with the FUJINON XF 55-200mm ƒ/4.8 lens. This worked great.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 4000, ƒ/4.8, 1/500

Here is a small collection from the show. Can you see why I composed the shots as I did for these? Maybe you would do something different.